Grants/CC Full-dome

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CC Full-dome

Applicants: Artists' House in Weimar
Affiliation: Facepalm Productions, KulturTragWerk e.V., Bauhaus-University Weimar Media Faculty & Computing Service, Machine Room of the Student Government, MX-Wendler, Cultural Office of the City of Weimar
CC affiliated? No
Contact: Daniel Caleb Thompson
Coordinator: Daniel Caleb Thompson (Project Manager), Prof. Ben Sassen (University Liason & Media Artist), Hannes Wagner (Full-Dome guru), Thomas Wohlfarth (IT), Jan Zehn (Audio)
Project Start: 2010/08/01
Project End: 2010/10/09
Download budget Discussion

Describe the project you are proposing as clearly as possible in just five sentences.

We want to build a platform for full-dome film projection and production, making it possible for artists, film-makers and students to freely access a dome and create content for this medium that is currently in its infancy. This project will serve to acquire the technology and materials to build the dome, port VJ software (MX-Wendler) to the Linux platform, create the technical infrastructure and make the handbook so that others can also fashion their own domes for similar projects. We see this work as the beginning of a long-term project that will create an infrastructure that, in the words of Prof. Ben Sassen, will "be made freely available for local Creative Commons licensed projects" and make "media available to a broad cross-section of society ranging from school-age to retirement-age".

Detail the tangible project output (e.g., paper, blog post, written materials, video/film, etc.; this would be in addition to the final written report that successful grant recipients will be expected to deliver to CC at the conclusion of the project).

  1. free & public access to a dome projection system for CC projects
  2. CC-licensed project blueprints using consumer grade technology, minimal proficiency in construction
  3. take the first step down the road of the creation of a render-farm available to the community for the post-production and test-rendering of full-dome projects
  4. the porting of professional VJ software from Windows & Mac to Linux platform, made freely available to the Linux community, albeit under a closed-source license.

Describe the community you are targeting. How would the project benefit the community?

The community is composed of artists, film-makers and students currently developing films and visualizations for full-dome projection systems, some of whom live and work in the area, others would travel to use the dome. The full-dome is actually a "bastard-child" of planetarium projection-systems. Arising from this cross-over situation, the technology, storage rental space and relative lack of planetariums make it a very cost-prohibitive venture in film-making. In Weimar, where we will build the first CC Dome, there isn't even a dome to be used - even though the local community of film-makers and university students are very productive making their films, they don't even have a place to run test-renderings or even showcase their works to others. Our work will concretely reduce travel costs and time loss while increasing productivity and availability of this exciting and immersive medium. On an extended level, we will also provide the plans for making such a dome, thus expanding and empowering our />

What is your relationship with the community you are targeting? Why are you the best individual/organization to lead this project? Do you have prior experience in related projects?

In itself, the Artists' House was an organization active in the Weimar arts industry from 1887 until 1945, and is currently enjoying its revival as a community-based non-commercial meeting point for artists of all genres and those interested in supporting the arts. It is a hub of the community, located in the center of the city. We are currently planning our monthly CC Salon, to begin in July. Its director, Daniel Caleb Thompson, has been at the forefront of the local avant garde arts and media scene for the past 10 years. For his final thesis project at Bauhaus-University Weimar in 2004 he made 5 home-brew video projectors and a live holographic presentation system. Furthermore he also helped found the Galerie Eigenheim in Weimar, was its Director from 2008 - 2009 and has spent the past several years acquiring and managing funding for a variety of small to large projects, most recently for the City of Weimar as projects curator for the "Bauhaus Lab" that was funded by EU Culture. One of our key partners is a young full-dome film company, which will be premiering its CC licensed film "SUPER GOLDEN YEARS" in our full-dome on the 9th of October. Our partnership with Bauhaus-University includes the Professor for Experimental Television as well as the lecturer responsible for the Full-dome department at the Media faculty. Additionally, the university center for computing will be providing networking facilities and an array of licenses. The Machine Room is a small community of hackers, DIYers and Linux enthusiasts always ready to get involved in new and exciting projects with media. MX-Wendler is professional VJ server software, however it is currently only available on Macintosh and Windows platforms. We are working closely with its lead developer to resolve porting issues, and hope to release a closed-source but freely available (for non-profit organizations) full-dome alpha version for Linux in early September. Last but not least, our cooperation with the City of Weimar's Cultural Office guarantees the acceptance and promotion of our cultural work from a legal and sociology-political standpoint in Weimar and the State of Thuringia.

How will you measure and evaluate your project’s impact - on your main participants? Other contributors? On the larger community?

The immediate impact of this project will be measured by the number of people retained by the Artists' House as volunteers after this first phase is completed. Naturally, it can also be measured by the quantity (and technical quality) of full-dome media-projects produced in Weimar over the course of the next few years. In the short term we hope to see a increasing interest in full-dome at the art/ movie-maker scene of Weimar, over the long term in whole thuringia and bordering states of Germany, because Weimar is a really central place. Because of the relatively small size of the current full-dome scene, we also expect to be a driving partner in international collaborations on the EU and international level, to the extent where we can eventually help offset the funding costs associated with the production of such films with the support of EU Media and EU Culture programs. Of course it will also be interesting to see to what extent our work enables others to undertake similar projects, and participate in the cross-pollination that arises out of sharing ideas and resources.

How many participants do you expect to be involved in your project? How will you seek and sustain their involvement?

During the first phase of the project, we expect around thirty to forty people to help create the physical dome and its technical infrastructure. The vast majority of these people have a vested interest in the project and collaborate with the Artists' House on a volunteer basis, although several specialists will be paid for their work. After the Dome is finished, it is guaranteed that the community will grow faster every month due to artist/ filmmakers/ full-dome fanatics and students who will have the possibility to create their own content for the Dome, who will naturally spread the word to other interested people -- especially via our proximity and cooperation with Bauhaus-University Weimar and the Full-Dome-festival in Jena. (See other notes.)

Describe how your project will benefit Creative Commons' mission to increase the amount of creativity (cultural, educational, and scientific content) in "the commons".

Full-dome is still a quite exclusive and closed medium due to many factors:

The makers need: 1) Knowledge of and money for the tools to create, render and present the films, 2) The connections to a full-dome for testing and presenting, 3) To efficiently manage the gigantic data flow which is needed for creating content for the Dome.

For the audience: 1) Absurdly high licensing fees for "professional" full-dome films make their presentation an incredible expense for planetariums and quickly over-saturate the market with films of a primarily scientific nature. 2) Weimar (and a majority of other mid-size cites across the planet) do not have such facilities, forcing the audience to travel

The CC-dome in Weimar will give everyone who is interested in sharing creative output the possibility to use a professional render-farm, to have non-bureaucratic access to a Dome for testing and presenting their work and it will finally take the Dome out of the planetarium and open it for everyone who is searching for new media formats in a friendly, open and sharing context. Furthermore, the knowledge we will have gained in the process will be returned to the community to be reworked, improved and shared.

Describe what technologies and tools your project will use. What kinds of technical skills and expertise do you bring to the project? What are your technical needs?

We will be building the dome with aluminum and PVC sheeting. We will use 8 small speakers in order to create surround sound. Video projection will be controlled by a 64bit computer built for is role as "video projection & audio services manager" and useful in the future during non-presentation times as queue-manager for the render farm / Beowulf server. We are audio-video professionals with a variety of backgrounds ranging from coding to fine art, who have come together to find an elegant solution to a rather simple (but to date more or less unaddressed) problem. Our technical needs are: a number-crunching six-core i7 computer with 16gb ram, 2x 500GB with an ATI Radeon HD-5450, an 8-channel sound card, 800watt ATX power supply, a TripleHead2Go, three XGA video projectors and 8 speakers. (Or a time-machine to ten years in the future where your iPhone is faster and has a built in projector.)

What challenges do you expect to face, and how do you plan to overcome them?

1. One of the continuous challenges that we face is to promote contemporary arts in a city that has been fossilized in its history. Even the building where we work is protected by the City office for the preservation of landmarks, which, as is to be expected, frown at our contemporary usage of the building. The realization of this project will serve to meet one of our milestones of integrating ultra-modern media culture in this historical space - thereby acting as a catalyst for not only our "internal" community of creative people, but also the "external" community - by proving that historical and contemporary culture can coexist. 2. Our systems architect and render wrangler, Thomas Wohlfarth, has already analyzed various scenarios, and developed a strict set of fallback systems so that at our zero-date (October 9th, 2010), we will be able to present the first full-dome film regardless of operating system. This is necessary in case we are unable to successfully port the VJ system to Linux, or face some other issues (like nvidia support for openGL...)

How do you plan to sustain your project after the Creative Commons funding has ended? Detail specific plans. How do you plan to raise revenue to continue your efforts in the future?

We will sustain the project by making it not just "our project", but a project by the community for the community that is transferable to any place with a space big enough and people adventurous enough to undertake similar work. In the next phase, we will be using our media server to control a Ubuntu-based render farm for the rendering of film projects and run a weekly full-dome projection night. The full-dome will also be used for artistic experimentation and intermedia theater. We expect to raise money through public funding agencies such as EU funds for transnational cooperation projects and donations to our non-profit organization.

How can this project be scalable, or have a scalable impact?

Even though this project hasn't even started yet, the feedback we are receiving is already very exciting: Partnerships with people of the same interest all across Europe, especially a partnership with the Fulldome Festival Jena, one of the biggest Fulldome events worldwide. We also hope that building our "low Budget" Dome will inspire other interested people to copy the plans and create their own Dome whereever they can. One of our main points of interest in this project is to make it scalable, to give the plans of how to build a dome and how to create content for everyone who is interested and to encourage other groups to do it in their own way, on a smaller or bigger scale.

What resources and support do you expect Creative Commons to provide to your project to ensure its success (if any)?

Creative Commons already provides a license system, which is the base on which Fulldome exchange can work. Fulldome is still not a medium for money making, it is a format for people who create content for the community, for arts, for the fun of showing and experimenting. Due to the CC-license we can send those contents all over the world without the fear of running into problems with each countries own copyright laws. By founding our project, CC is helping the Fulldome community to grow faster and into higher cultural horizons. A community of planetariums, domes and content- creators, who will use the CC- licensing system more and more during the next years and who will need any help they can in solving the copyright problems they are going to face and already facing.

Describe how your organization currently communicates with its community members and network partners. (100 words)

Our organization uses traditional media and existing personal networks to communicate with its members in a non-formal way. Furthermore, we use social media, email and mailing lists to keep the entire group updated. Additionally, we organize events where people who share interests can get together and talk about their ideas.